Kickstarterd in December of 2016 (with the first wave of fulfillment already underway), Mayday Games has once again launched their version of a tournament sized hardwood Crokinole board. Unlike our traditional board game reviews, we’ll only be providing a brief overview of Crokinole as a game instead of reviewing the game play holistically. After all, this classic dexterity game is nearly 150 years old and, according to Board Game Geek, one of the five best family games ever created. What we’ll really be focused on isn’t the game itself (which is great), but the product that Mayday offered through their latest Kickstarter (and currently being offered for purchase on their website). Generally, Crokinole sets are large, expensive affairs – but this is the fourth time Mayday has offered a more affordable way to get involved in the Canadian fun. Is this the best way to kickstart your Crokinole obsession, or should you shuffle on by? Read on to find out!
What’s in the Box?
Mayday ships the board in a large, double boxed package with plenty of internal padding to protect the product during transportation. Inside the package, you’ll find:
- 1 26″ Mahogany veneered Crokinole playing board
- 8 wooden board pegs (mine came with 9 – it is unclear if this is intentional)
- 1 Storage box with scoring track
- 2 Scoring pegs, 1 each in black and natural
- 24 Shooting disks
- 12 black and 12 natural (my box came with 28 discs – 14 black and 14 natural, again this may be a packing mistake)
- 1 Crokinole rule and board care instructions book
How to Play
Crokinole is one of the easiest dexterity games to learn, but it can be incredibly difficult to master. A traditionally two-player game (though with three- and four-player variants), the object of the game is to score the most points by ensuring that your shooting disks are in the higher valued spots on the board (closer to the center) while driving your opponents disks into lower scoring areas or off of the board into the ditch. The board is divided into five concentric rings, each decreasing in value as you move outward from the center. In addition to rings, the boards are divided into four player quadrants, identifying the areas from which a player will sit and shoot their 12 wooden disks.
On a player’s turn, if there are no opposing disks on the board, they place one of their wooden shooting disks on the shooting line in their quadrant (in a two-player game, across from their opponent), and “flick” the disk towards the center, trying to land their disk in the center hole. While shooting, only the shooting hand may touch the board, and the shooter must remain seated – keeping at least one “cheek” on their chair. A shooter may not stand and their opponent may not touch the board in any way during their shot.
If the active shooter lands their disk in the center, they remove the disk from the board and set it aside – such disks are worth 20 points at the end of the round. If their disk does not land in the hole, it (or another disk of the same color) must stop within the 15-point circle surrounding the center hole. If the shooter’s disk, nor any friendly disks it struck, land it the 15 point circle, the shot disk and all friendly disks that it hit are removed from the board to the ditch.
If, on a player’s turn there are opposing colored disks on the board, the shooter must strike at least one opposing disk with either the shot disk or another friendly disk. If the shooter fails to hit an opponent’s disk, the shot disk and any friendly disks it contacted are removed from the board and placed in the ditch.
And that’s pretty much it. Players will alternate shots attempting to removed their opponent’s disks from the board while maximizing the position of their own disks. At the end of the round, players score 20 for each bulls-eye they’ve earned and then score each disk based on the ring where it rests at the end of the round. Disks that rest on any line are always considered to be fully in the lower of the two rings, and disks that touch the shooting line are considered to be in the ditch. The lower of the player’s scores is then subtracted from the higher of the players scores, giving only the winning player a score for the round. For example, if one player finished with 80 points and the second player finished with 60, the first player would score 20 points for the round and the second would score zero. Rounds continue until one player earns a preset number of points (usually 100). There are alternative methods for scoring included in the Mayday guide, as well as play variants but this overview gives the basic understanding for playing Crokinole.
The Board Features
The Mayday board is a very good entry level design and came ready to play right out of the box. The wooden bumper pegs are not installed on the board, but slip beautifully into the pre-drilled holes and can be placed before playing or permanently glued in according to the owner’s desire. It is so easy to set up and play that we were able to play a full game of Crokinole literally within minutes of receiving the package.
How does this board hold up compared to other boards? Well, it works fine. You could easily spend two or three times the amount of money on a similar entry level board with no effort. However, many of those boards are going to be solid wood designs. Mayday was able to make this a more affordable option by using medium-density fiberboard (MDF) for the bulk of the board’s body, making it less expensive to manufacture but still very sturdy. In fact, the board is a total 30.25″ in diameter, 3″ thick and weights more than 17 pounds. As long as you’re not getting the body wet or storing it leaning against a wall, this is a very solid board that shouldn’t warp.
The playing surface is a hardwood mahogany veneered plywood, and the rail around the ditch is also plywood. The lines printed on the board are clear and easy to understand, and the holes for the bumper pegs are well placed and fit the pegs with no issue. The surface also comes pre-waxed, allowing the disks to (generally) move freely across the board with no preparation.
The board also has some fantastic features. The bottom of the board is recessed, with eyelets pre-installed, for flat hanging on the walls of your gaming room. The board also has counterbored screws and rubber feet to protect your tables as you play. Addtionally, the plug that fills the center hole is beveled on the playing side so as to make removing those perfect center shots a breeze. Mayday paid a lot of attention to the little details to make a great design for a beginning Crokinole player.
Moving on from the playing board to the pieces, the disks have an interesting design where one side is convex and the other is concave. This allows players to create the amount of spin that they’d like to see on their shots. The convex side spins more freely while the concave side much less so – which leads to some interesting strategic choices when shooting. The pieces are well crafted and plain in design – perfect for a starter board.
Finally, the set comes with a wooden box to store the pieces and pegs. This box also has a scoring track conveniently built into the top. There’s not a whole lot to say about this piece. It functions and does what it’s supposed to do – though it could’ve been finished better. It seems very rough cut and drilled and could do with a good sanding and sealing. It’s not integral to the game, but as a minimalist way to keep score and store pieces, it works.
So it this the perfect Crokinole board? No. Far from it. But it is a great starter board that has some fantastic aspects – though I have to say it also has a bit of a dark side. Before I go too deep in discussing some of the quality issues I’ve had with my board, I want to start by saying that I have reached out to Mayday with questions about some of these issues. They responded quickly saying they received my inquiry – however, at the time of this writing it has been several weeks, I have heard nothing more. Understandably, they’re very busy fulfilling multiple waves of a very popular campaign, and I do expect to hear from them in the future – but more contact would be nice. When I receive a response from Mayday, I will update this article with any additional information they’ve made available to me.
To begin, there were noticeable issues with quality right out of the box – the most egregious of which is the apparent cracking or splitting of the topmost layer of the plywood on the rail in some places. I don’t know if this is a result of manufacturing or shipping or changes in climate or something else that I haven’t considered. I am curious to know if this is merely a one-time defect or something that may continue for the life of the board – I currently have no way of knowing what the cause is nor how to prevent it from happening in the future. If this is merely a manufacturing defect, I have no idea what the tolerance is for such issues would be. Does this happen in 1 in 1000 boards? 1 in 100? 1 in 10? I honestly can’t say, and as mentioned I have yet to receive comment from Mayday. So if you’re expecting or have received one of these Kickstarter boards, let me know if you’ve had similar issues – I’d be interested to know.
Further, the rail surrounding the board is very clearly made from distinct parts. I say very clearly because the seams of the rails are not flush on the board I received, and they are incredibly visible. This does not affect the game play in any meaningful way, but it is somewhat disappointing to have a display piece with some not insignificant aesthetic flaws.
The most important issue to the play experience is the appearance of “rough” spots on the playing surface. Most of the board is very smooth, however there are areas in each of the quadrants that are slightly rough to the touch. With time and wax, these areas will likely become much smoother – however, there are times when this noticeably affects the trajectory and speed of the disks. My understanding is that the surface of a Crokinole board should be consistently smooth, and mine is, unfortunately, not. I do think working some wax into the surface over time will make this less noticeable, but more than four weeks out of the box it’s still an issue.
Ultimately, this board does exactly what it sets out to do – nothing more, nothing less. It’s an affordable, entry level Crokinole board that can service as a great family game and look nice on a wall. There are some issues with the quality of the board, but I suppose that’s to be expected in a board where being economical is of the utmost importance. Obviously, I’d prefer the board to be flawless – especially considering that even this board was over $100 shipped – but if it functions and looks mostly pleasing to the eye, I guess it’s good enough. Crokinole as a game is a 10 – one of the best dexterity and family games you can buy and absolutely a worthy investment. This particular board, though, is about a 6-worthy effort (maybe a 6.5? But we don’t really do partial points here at Initiative: Tabletop).
At the end of the day, what Mayday offers is a very affordable and serviceable board. Their 2017 hardwood iteration is a good entry point into the world of Crokinole and will sate my appetite for the game when I absolutely have to play (spoiler: all the time). Though, in truth, having this does make me covet a high-end tournament board all the more. If you’re looking to get into the game and are willing to live with minor defects in the craftsmanship, this is your most affordable option (that isn’t some plastic monstrosity).